Democrats pass symbolic ‘anti-corruption act’ as first action of the new Congress
According to NPR, the For the People Act, which was introduced on Friday by House Democrats, is a 571-page compilation of existing problems and solutions across issues of voting, political money, redistricting, and ethics. “We heard loud and clear from the American people, they feel left out and locked out from their own democracy,” John Sarbanes, a Democratic representative from Maryland told reporters. But it is unlikely that the bill will become law this year because the Senate is still controlled by Donald Trump’s Republican Party, not to mention the president’s veto power.
David Keating, president of the conservative Institute for Free Speech, told NPR, “This is obviously a pretty radical expansion of the regulation of political speech.” If the bill becomes law, Keating argued, anti-Trump groups “would find it very difficult to speak as effectively as they have over the past two years.”
The bill would do many things, including taking the ability of state legislatures to draw districts and giving that power to an independent commission. The idea here is that absent the impetus of elections to gerrymander elections in the favor of their political parties, elections would become much more fair processes overall. It would also make it possible for citizens to be registered to vote automatically from driver’s license or other government data, add the ability to register online for state elections, and require states to provide same-day registration and up to 15 days of early voting in federal elections.
The bill also takes aim squarely at President Trump and his administration, calling for the release of tax returns from presidents and vice-presidents, something which NPR notes had been commonplace in other administrations, but not in this current one. Additionally, House members would be incapable of using taxpayer money to pay employment discrimination penalties. This arrangement follows the news of the new rule change that forces congresspeople to have to pay out of pocket for settlements and court judgments in sexual misconduct cases.
The bill would also establish a public database for companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter to keep track of political advertisement purchases exceeding $500, and require them to create new ways to block ad purchases from foreign officials or nationals.